Album Reviews

Sam Butler

Raise Your Hands!

Artist:     Sam Butler

Album:     Raise Your Hands!

Label:     Severn

Release Date:     10/16/2015


To borrow a phrase from Van Morrison, “a rough God goes riding here.” This is not the traditional gospel often associated with the Blind Boys of Alabama, for whom Sam Butler played guitar for many years. Though culled from popular secular artists, this often frenetic gospel is every bit as feverish and is totally exalting. These tunes come from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, U2, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Curtis Mayfield, Eliza Gilkyson and others.

Butler has been playing for decades as a sideman with high profile artists like Keith Richards, Donald Fagan and Clarence Fountain, but this is his first solo effort. He is a fiery guitarist and a versatile vocalist who can range from a falsetto like Mayfield’s to a raspier growl on other selections. There are only four musicians here: Sacred Steel standout Roosevelt Collier on lap steel and an A-list Nashville rhythm section made up of drummer Marco Giovino and bassist Viktor Krause. The interplay between Butler and Collier is stirring. Together the four of make some glorious noise– it’s impossible to sit still while listening.

Acclaimed producer Brian Brinkerhoff approached Butler with the concept for the album, and once he had Sam’s approval he recruited the players for these Nashville sessions. Some of these dozen tunes, though written by well-known artists, are not necessarily widely familiar. “The Lord” from the Bee Gees, “God’s Hotel” from Nick Cave and “Wherever You Leadeth” from Curtis Mayfield are especially strong. This may not be your father’s gospel, but Butler’s deeply passionate interpretations will move you.

– Jim Hynes

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